CNO Stresses Sense of Urgency as Competitors Threaten Technological Advantage
By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON — With the nation’s strategic competitors taking advantage of the “exponential” advances in technology, the Navy must “capture a sense of urgency to maintain our place in the world,” the Navy’s top officer said April 27.
That sense of urgency is vital because “the competition moves very fast and in this competition, there are only gold medals. It’s winner takes all,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.
The need to become more competitive is particularly important in the acquisition process that Richardson said “is not built for the competition,” and in which there are “lots of people who get votes, I would say vetoes, in the name of drawing down risks.”
“It’s a mindset that places very little value on outcomes, particularly outcomes in time,” Richardson told a Brookings Institute audience.
“Why does it take us so long to design a ship these days? Why does it take so long to build that ship once it’s designed,” he said, adding that the same concerns apply to aircraft or other systems. “If we don’t take the last ship, innovate it forward, we’ll miss a great opportunity to provide our nation a platform for the future.”
Richardson said the Navy was “working very hard with industry, right now, to really do a full-court press on those assumptions, to get things done faster, to design a ship in one-third, one-half the time we’ve historically done.”
To do that, he added, “requires stable and predictable funding” because industry is “looking for a signal so they can have confidence that this is an area in which they can invest, get a return.”
With respect to funding, “we have less control than putting a plan together. Congress plays crucial role” and the “lack of stable, predictable funding makes it difficult to execute that plan,” he said.
Richardson noted that the services were operating under the “latest in a series of eight years of continuing resolutions.” Working without predictable funding is like “trying to beat the competition in the race by spotting them three laps.”
The admiral said the 2011 Budget Control Act, which limits all government spending including defense, “was based on assumptions of fewer threats, less threatening environment,” which would mean a lower operating tempo for the services.
Instead, he said, “the world has become more complex, more demanding,” which has required a higher pace of operations.
Richardson listed the primary competitors that are threatening to take away the Navy’s traditional technological advantage, citing the rapid growth and improvements of China’s Navy, the re-emergence and modernization of Russia’s fleet and the provocative actions of North Korea and Iran.
Although the Navy is “committed to doing everything we can to use the resources we have judiciously, be innovative, creative, the resource issue makes everything harder.”
Asked if the Navy’s plan for building a future fleet of 355 ships could push out the efforts to adopt new technologies, Richardson said it had to do both.
The operational demands and the growing threats all point to the need for a bigger Navy, he said. But, “if I built 355 ships with today’s technology, it wouldn’t be enough. We’ve got to innovate … otherwise, we would have an irrelevant navy.”
Noting all the places in which the Navy must operate, “we have to have capacity to do that. But there also is a capability issue. What do you do with it? You have to be there to be credible, but you have to have the right capabilities,” he said.
Richardson said he would issue a new plan on the future Navy in the next few weeks that would not just talk about numbers but also the reasons for that Navy.
Asked about the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis showing the Navy would need far more annual funding to carry out its plan to build a 355-ship fleet, Richardson said a plan that did not consider resources would “not be worth the paper it’s written on. It’s got to be resource informed.”